The first year of district-wide water testing has been completed. Hillsborough County Public Schools took the proactive step of testing to ensure the water that students and staff drink is safe.

Fixtures at every school and district office, 251 facilities in all, have now been tested and any issues found were corrected. The maintenance crews collected water samples from every drinking fountain, kitchen food prep sink or other fixture used for drinking water, in addition to other samples throughout the schools.

Maintenance teams took samples from 11,595 fixtures. Fewer than 2 percent of those, a total of 207 fixtures, came back with lead levels above the District’s strict standard of 15 parts per billion, which is stricter than what the Environmental Protection Agency recommends. All of the fixtures that showed elevated levels were immediately taken out of operation and not used again until the problem was fixed and the water passed a new test. There were no school-wide issues.

Original Story printed in Sept., 2018

In recent months, there have been a number of news stories throughout the country about high levels of lead in school drinking water. Hillsborough County School District has proactive efforts in our district to ensure the water that students and staff drink is safe for consumption.

According to Chris Farkas, Deputy Superintendent of Operations, “Since last year, we have tested the water at 1,781 individual faucets, drinking fountains and fixtures where water is likely to be used for drinking or cooking in 53 schools and district sites. We will continue testing the drinking water sources in our schools for lead until we have checked all 270 facilities in our district.”

Since the average campus age is 50 years old, older pipes and fixtures do have a higher likelihood of adding lead to water.

Federal guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency recommend action to fix an issue when lead is measured at 20 parts per billion or higher. One part per billion is equivalent to a single drop of water in a swimming pool.

“Our district is using a stricter standard of 15 parts per billion. Any fixture found to have lead levels of 15 parts per billion or higher is immediately taken out of operation and is not used again until the problem is fixed,” commented Farkas.

Of the 1,781 samples taken so far, 26 have returned with levels higher than the guidelines. District protocol is to immediately shut down the affected faucet, correct the issue and then retest the water to ensure the levels are in compliance before putting the faucet back into service. Options to correct an issue include replacing the fixture, adding water filters or other plumbing projects. Alternative sources of water may be supplied to schools if needed.

Each school may have dozens of faucets requiring testing and results take time to come back from the testing lab. Results are posted as received at www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/watertesting. If a school has a fixture testing over the 15 parts per billion level, parents and staff will be notified by email and text message.

If you have any questions about the testing or results as we receive them, please visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/2012/maintenance/resources/watertesting-faq/.